I just love the colours of Africa – Don’t you?

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!!

A really good overseas holiday has a checklist, some more important than others. Its about what you saw, what you did and what you experienced so that you can wear that ‘been there, done that got the T-shirt’ phrase on a nice new Top!! Better than ‘all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ because that would mean you actually hadn’t even been there!!! One of the most important aspects is experiencing a different culture! I’ve been to The Yangtzee river, Xian and the Great wall in China, The Tran Siberia train ride from Moscow to Beijing and even seen Santa Claus in Lapland so I should know am little about these things.

Today I’m going to take you through a virtual tour of that experience in the Eastern Cape.

Most people like to shop till they drop. They even take an extra suitcase. A family I knew literally went with the clothes they were wearing and overnight bag and bought a whole new wardrobe to bring home!!

While the women are out shopping with Mr’s credit card the men are sitting in the pub having a few ales, drowning their sorrows before they get those statements, some even wondering how lucky they might get from the guilt of her spending!!!

Eventually the women get tired and need a good chin wag over a cup of coffee! They have to convince themselves that all ‘that’ spent on ‘this’ was absolutely worth it!!

No holiday would be complete without visiting a few old churches. I was upset to hear that when one now pays to light a candle they go on electrically. No more good old fashioned wicker candles!!

A few cultural places are always on the map although some people like to just look at it from the outside and then brag about what they did!! I met an American traveller once and all he did in each place he visited was to go the American Embassy in that area and take a picture!! Quite a collection he must have!! But back to the Eastern Cape and a little bit of culture!!

Of course the old buildings are always my best. I just love to wonder the streets and look at the architecture!! I could spend all day just walking, snapping and experiencing.

One has to experience the night life, drinks and a disco maybe!! Even at 75 they like a good party and a few drinks. I took a trip to Russia once, average age 75 years!!! There were amongst the crowd 5 single ladies and one single gent!! All the ladies wanted favour with Sir and Sir was happy to wine the ladies!!! There’s hope for us all!! He was buying the drinks and the ladies were drinking!!

These days you can’t go anywhere without looking at real estate and imagining the life if you could just buy a house or some property there!! A place with a view – position is everything!!!

And in the end I am always fascinated by how others live and what it would really be like to actually make that move!!

If that is intolerance and I am intolerant…I don’t mind!!

To wear or not to wear the headscarf is a question being asked in many non Muslim countries of the world today. With the banning of the burqa (full head cover) in public places in some countries France, Belgium, Turkey and Kosovo and the headscarf banned in schools in France and about to go the same way in some other European countries I had to ask myself the big Question – How tolerant of others am I??

I was walking through the mall the other day and a woman (I think) in full black outfit and burqa with slightly dark reading glasses on through the slit in the eyes, came walking towards me and I looked really hard trying to understand what this was all about. I have not read the passages in the Koran that insists on this practice so am fairly ignorant on those matters on this subject. My understanding is from my perspective of freedom!! I am not being rude when I say ‘I think’ but in full honesty it could have been anyone under that garment!!

Anyway back to this idea of looking…and I remembered a brilliant 2 part series TV show I watched fairly recently when the first picture was of a young suicide bomber blowing himself up in London and then followed the whole story on how he got to that moment in time and in the mind. His sister who was a devout Muslim did not wear the burqa and was ostracised by those who did and the men who wanted her to do so. One day she tried it after a friend explained to her that when wearing a burqa people treated you really badly…like a ‘non person’. She then got similar ‘non person’ treatment!!

I do apologise in advance for my feelings but when looking at a person who is choosing or maybe forced into choosing to cover up the whole body with a flowing rob just like Denis Roussos did when trying to hide his large size, I got to thinking of others who do the same for different reasons!! Our nuns in Catholicism wear full dresses and cover their hair. Practical philosophy followers wear flowing ankle skirts and not so tight tops. The Amish wear simple outfits with long sleeves and long skirts. The fundamentalist Mormons also have their thick course dress material and the ‘we all buy from the same catalogue one choice style’ look and awful long thick stockings that must be worn. I am sure there are many other instances of dress code which make you conform to belong through religion, customs and beliefs. We have the total opposite here In SA with the Zulu maiden who is allowed to let it all hang out!!

I do not even mind the head scarf that covers up the hair. It is the face and the eyes that matter to me!!!! It’s the covering of the face and the mouth and the eyes with the burqa that make me think ‘non person’. If your personality shines through your face and eyes and expression which to me it does and I can’t see you, you become ‘non person’!! And I can only think that out of choice or husband’s choice that person wants to be a non person. Intolerant – yes absolutely but my intolerance goes deeper than that!!

Gheerah is the driving emotion that is supposed to protect and safeguard a man’s own woman and children from the leering look of strangers. Hijab the terminology for covering yourself fulfils this action. A real man would thus want this for all women so he can’t leer at others and others can’t leer at his possessions. If people choose to really wear these full outfits because of their own relationship with God and the humility they feel in face of him. I understand; but when it is a male that dominates the world and is doing this to curb the lust he might feel. I freak out.

Especially when living next door to a brothel! The police have checked the number plates and the car owners are a large percent Muslim! They even arrive from Mosque still dressed in their white robe and turban. I know this is a small percentage of men and men from all religions do visit (trying very hard not to generalise) But when you walk in a mall and the man is dressed in jeans and normal clothes and the woman is covered from head to toe…I just don’t get it!! My intolerance level heightens!!

I realise that my tolerance is ruled by do unto others as you would do to yourself.

In calcutta in India (a largely Hindu society) a devout Muslim teacher who does not wear Hijab with full face burqa was told by her students that they would not come to class unless she wore it. In some places in France and Norway statistics show rape has increased in certain areas where hijab is not practised!! Even in Australia a Muslim cleric condoned the rape because the girl was ‘asking for it’.

If their was absolute freedom world wide and only those women who really wanted to wear it, did and I was free to visit Iran, Iraq and a few other Muslim countries without conforming to Hijab I think I would be more tolerant and advocate to not ban the burqa – full face cover. But in its symbol of suppression for so many people in worlds where freedom of women is non existent in mans insistence to keep her as a non person because of what he feels and his non ability to fight these feelings with reasoning instead of succumbing to it – I say – Ban the burqa!!

If that is intolerance and I am intolerant…I don’t mind!!

P.S. – thought left in a Muslim internet chat room!!

‘What kind of dignity a non-believer has by the way; they conduct their life and expose themselves. They have removed the shield of protection, that modesty of Hijab and left themselves unprotected and that is the cause for the assault, which takes place once every ten seconds in rape and murder around the world. But those true Muslims who observe proper Hijab are protected from such assaults and not one [case of] this type is ever heard of.’

Afrikaans – To speak or not to speak!!

I was very upset the other day when I read the following in an article in news24 the other day.

“Cosas condemns any racial tendencies that seeks to close doors of learning for the black African students, who are indigenous people of this country and Africa at large by having foreign, unoriginal Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in some racist schools, more especially in the West Rand region under racist Afrikaners management,” a statement from Gauteng provincial secretary Oagile Louw said.

I was left wondering if all Afrikaans schools are racist or only those on the west rand!! And furthermore why are some people still intimidated by Afrikaans 16 years into our democracy. It was the language of the oppressor but in Africa so was French, Portuguese and English and that hasn’t stopped the people in those countries from expressing themselves in these European tongues!!

Afrikaans is an interesting language and it is a relatively new language in History but that does not make it a language that should thus be ignored. If you asked me where Afrikaans came from I would always say that the Dutch bought it out in 1652 when they established a colony in Cape Town. A couple of years later the Huguenots, mainly French protestants who had moved to Holland fleeing catholic persecution came to South Africa on ships to settle in distant lands. There were German, French and Dutch Protestants in this group so although never mentioned I am sure that German and French did have an influence as well as the Malay, Portuguese and some African languages in its development.

According to Wikipedia and South African statistics Afrikaans is the 3rd most spoken language and it has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all official languages. It is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language. When I go to my sister’s farm in Bloemfontein we have to communicate to her staff in Afrikaans. We don’t force them to speak Afrikaans – it’s just that they don’t know any English!!

So why am I making all this fuss!!

I love languages. I speak a few myself!! I never learnt Zulu unfortunately because in those days we learnt English, Afrikaans and maybe French or German!! I did not live on a farm like Eddie from Ficksburg or my friend Debbie and so have an extremely limited knowledge of the Zulu language and I can’t even call it Fanagolo. I also hated Afrikaans until the travel bug hit me and then I realised how fortunate we were!!

I was sitting alone but not by myself in a hot spring in Iceland, surrounded by snow, northern lights haphazard movement across the sky, bottle of Irish Baileys in hand and I was contemplating life. Those of you who spend time alone will know that other people’s conversations can be quite interesting during these times. I was listening to a foreign language spoken by an elderly couple and after understanding the just of the conversation I asked them what they were speaking. It was Old Norse a language spoken by the older generation of Norwegians and I could understand a bit – I am sure that was because of Afrikaans. 4 Months later I found myself in Akureyri watching the sun come down to the horizon on 21st June before bouncing off to start its next daily cycle. There we were a few in the back packers all come to see the midnight sun and once again conversation flowed in many languages and Afrikaans.

When I studied my Travel and tourism diploma in France; paid for by my fish cutting antiques in Iceland I had to choose a 3rd language. I had French with difficulty but essential, English as my 2nd language and I chose German. The girls in my class and I think one male student, had all done German for matric in France. Verbal comprehensions were my best. I understood a lot more than anyone else in my class – That was because of Afrikaans!!

My favourite sport is snow skiing. If you want to woo me, offer me a snow ski holiday somewhere in the world!! My most frequent destination is France but ski resorts are multilingual places in this modern world. I laugh now but my children definitely don’t laugh at their sergeant major mom who got them up before dawn, fed them breakfast and made sure they were standing at the ski lift as it started working in the morning. First up the slope and first to come down!! That powder some mornings was to die for!! Many a time on my own, I took my food and drink in a backpack, eating it sitting on the lift so as not to waste a single moment. The only time I took off those skis was to go into the powder room (but definitely nothing powder about a ladies toilet on a ski slope). Thank goodness I’ve mellowed and now will stop for lunch when others have gone back to the slopes after theirs!! The joy about the long ski lift rides was again those overheard conversations. I spoke Afrikaans and a few German words to people from Holland, Luxembourg, Germany and even spent a day following a man from Belgium slope to slope kamikaze style which never would have happened if I did not have Afrikaans. He could not speak English and would definitely not have wanted muted ski lift conversation that day!!

I remember in those early days of my travels, travelling in a combi called the DOOS from Nice, France to Bad Durkheim a place in Southern Germany. We stopped at a contact simply known as Jan, a big German wine maker. We had never met him before. We mentioned a few names and we were sleeping in the DOOS behind the garage in no time picking grapes during the day and drinking ‘neue’ wine by night, eating Kotelett, Bratwurst, Leberwurst, Sauerkraut and Apfelschnitz. Jan used to send his daughter Dagmar for translating purposes to the delight of my 4 male travel companions but he treated us special because we made an effort with him communicating in Afrikaans and 3 or 4 German words!! Before long we were all sleeping in the spare room of his house!! Incidentally I had the most fun as 21 polish men were also picking grapes at that time and minding my own business the vines were parted every now and then with a flurry of polish words being spoken and sung and raucous laughter from all other poles in earshot. Afrikaans definitely did not help me with that language but we had a good laugh!!

I went to Egypt once. Rode a smelly camel into the desert and bartered in the souks using the name Bafana Bafana which delighted the local ‘mad about soccer’ Egyptians. I thought I was buying bargains but I’m sure they made the most out of the deals we finally agreed too. I visited the pyramids just on the outskirts of Cairo. I had finished reading ‘The Orion Mystery’ and in days had booked my trip and here I was making my way down the narrow passage into the bowels of the pyramid. I thought I was the only one there until I noticed 2 people and a familiar language being spoken. All the way to Egypt sharing an ancient chamber visit with one other couple and they were speaking Afrikaans!!! We laughed all he way back to Cairo centre.